Racheal: Hey! Welcome back to Yogipreneur Radio. I’m your host, Racheal Cook. I’m joined today by my lovely cohost, Francesca Cervero.
Francesca: Hi, everybody!
Racheal: This topic today is totally Francesca’s area of expertise as the creator of The Science of the Private Lesson. She has this, hands down. So many great ideas for you guys.
We get asked all the time, “How do you find those first yoga students? How do you find those people who are actually interested and willing to pay for something like private yoga or higher end yoga offerings like yoga retreats, yoga workshops, anything like that?”
When you’re going off on your own, building your own yoga business and not just working for other yoga businesses, this can feel tricky. But, there’s a lot of ways you can go about it.
Francesca: Yeah. First I’ll just say that, especially if you’ve read my stuff and studied with me at all, you know that I really advocate for a style of teaching that has your current clients doing your marketing for you. I want to teach teachers how to connect with their students and to teach their classes in a way that facilitates really deep and meaningful change in their students’ bodies and in their lives out in the world. When people are having really significant changes as a result of their work with you, they will grow your business for you. That’s how that happens.
I had 25 private clients a week before I even really had a website because my students were just having good results from working with me and they forced their friends to work with me. They bought their friends sessions with me for birthdays and Christmas and things like that.
But, if you maybe moved to a new city or you’re having trouble finding that first private client, that whole idea can —
Racheal: Yeah. Like, how do you get the ball rolling?
Racheal: That’s a big starting point. I want to add here: what you just said is so important.
First, your experience is so amazing that people are telling their friends about it. That’s the key to word of mouth. Word of mouth is still the gold standard.
I run a completely online business and most of my clients still find out about me — even though I dominate in SCO, even though I have years and years of stuff on my blog, even though I’m very active on social media, most of my best… especially my private clients, all have come to me because of a referral.
In fact, Francesca came to me because of a referral.
Francesca: Yep. True.
Racheal: I think that’s something that most people don’t want to talk about, especially if they’re doing the work that I do, which is business and marketing strategy. They want to talk about all the cool, sexy things to get clients like being on social media and posting all these blogs and dominating SEO or any other tips or tricks. But at the end of the day, yoga is predispositioned to being a word of mouth-based business and the people who have very strong businesses often have strong businesses because they’ve created something that is worth talking about.
Francesca: Totally. Yeah.
Racheal: Create something worth talking about.
Francesca: There you go. That’s step one.
Racheal: Step one.
Francesca: The other thing is, I don’t want you to have to constantly work to find new clients. I mean, many of my clients that I’ve been working with in New York before I moved this spring were with me for five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 years. There got to be a point — was it 2010, maybe 2011 — when I hadn’t taken on a new client. I didn’t take on a new client in New York City probably since 2011 because I was just full.
Francesca: You know? That was just the bottom line. That’s the type of teaching career and business I want to help you create; one where you’re not having to constantly look for new clients. That’s so effortful and it also means that you’re not having close, meaningful, intimate relationships with your students, which is what’s going to help them in their practice most.
That said, I have lots of ideas for ways that you can find your first few private clients.
Racheal: I think one that’s definitely worth starting with is how you found your first. Your first — and we mentioned this in another episode — was a hand-me-down client from another yoga teacher.
If we were to go backwards from this and reverse engineer this, how do you get hand-me-down clients from other yoga teachers? How do you get yoga teachers to say, “I’m too booked. Can you take this client?” What do you have to have in place first? Do you have to have pre-existing yoga teachers?
This is something, I think, most people don’t talk about. I see this across so many industries. I have a photographer friend who, if they’re booked, they will pass on clients to other photographers. I have website friends/design friends who, if they are completely booked for the year, they will refer out.
I think that’s really important. It’s having a connection and being established in the yoga community where other teachers know who you are and they know what you do and they know what you have to offer and they know that you’re looking for private clients or that you’re looking for people who are interested in whatever it is you have to offer.
Francesca: Yeah. I just had a really good friend of mine had another friend — a mutual friend of ours — who had a bunch of private clients in New York City and she moved to Florida. She just gave my friend a bunch of her private clients. She went from having a few classes and clients to basically having a full schedule just because this one yoga teacher moved. She thought very highly of my friend and her teaching because she’s a great teacher and she’s done a lot of continuing education. So she just inherited this whole schedule of private clients.
It is. It’s relationships with other teachers.
Racheal: I think it happens more often than people realize. This is true of anything. Sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Sometimes if you just have the right relationships, they will hand you the right opportunities, including amazing clients.
Definitely getting involved in the community, participating in teacher-related events. Continuing education is a great place to meet other teachers.
Francesca: Yeah, because they’ll know then what a good teacher you are because they’re in an anatomy class with you and they think very highly of your teaching. That’s actually what I think happened to my friend. I think they were in the same anatomy class.
Francesca: One of the easiest and best places to meet private clients is in your group classes. When people sometimes come to me and they’re wanting to teach more private clients and they’re not teaching any group classes, that’s my first homework for them. I’m like, “You need to be teaching group classes somewhere.” Not a ton necessarily.
Racheal: Because no one knows who you are then.
Francesca: They already know you, like you, know yoga, like yoga. It’s a much easier conversation to have because they’ve already experienced your teaching. Your group classes are actually a super natural place to find private clients.
What it means, though, is that you’re teaching your big group classes in a way that makes them feel seen and that makes the teaching feel personalized so that they even get a sense of what a private session would be like.
I’m just teaching now three group classes on my schedule again, which his really fun after years of not teaching group classes. Since I just moved to a new city, I’ve met a lot of my new private clients in my group classes. I teach my group classes in a way that really makes people understand the possible benefits, I think, of a private session.
If I have 25/30 people in class, I learn every single one of their names on the spot. I know people’s injuries and what’s going on with them so even if I’m on the other side of the room, I can say, “Ryan, don’t forget to really externally rotate that left shoulder. It’s turning in again.” He knows that I’m watching him and I’m paying attention to him and I care about him. They’re being taught in my group class in a way that they’re not used to and so I think that gives them a sense of what it would be like to have my full attention without those 30 other people in the room.
Racheal: Yeah. I think that’s really important, what you just said there. This takes skill. This takes practice to be able to deliver a group class in that way. Also, it doesn’t have to be super complicated. It can be as simple as taking a few minutes before and after class to talk with people; making sure you’re getting to know their names. I have a horrible time with names for a big group class, but I know so many people who’ve come up with different tricks and ways that they find people’s names.
Also, just becoming a presence in a yoga community — whether it’s teachers or students — makes such a big difference and makes such a big impact. It could be small touches like paying attention to who’s coming when and, if you notice one of your regular students isn’t showing up, reaching out to them or sending them a little note. Something like that.
Those are great ways to just get involved with the community and build that visibility so they know who you are.
Racheal: Which is essential.
Francesca: The other reason a group class is a great place to find your new private clients is when someone stays after to talk to you — they’re having a physical discomfort or issue that they don’t understand, they’re having trouble with a pose that doesn’t make sense — they come to you after class with questions. That’s the place to answer their question as quickly as you can in 60 or 90 seconds. Give them an idea of what you see or what you think might be going on. Then, immediately say, “Do you know what would be so fun? If we had a private session, then we could really dig into this because I think that you are really close to getting headstand. You’re strong enough to do it, your alignment looks good. I’d love to help you figure out how to get those feet off the floor. I have some ideas. Why don’t’ we schedule a private session and see if I can help you?”
Racheal: Exactly. I love that.
I think that’s one thing to watch for when you’re doing group classes or have a group in front of you. When people start coming up and asking you things, what they’re really doing is raising their hand and saying, “I want more of this, please. How can I get more of your attention?”
Be aware of that and make sure you’re making space for that, but at the same time not getting run over with an hour after class with talking to people.
Francesca: Yeah. You can keep it short and say, “This is the answer I can give you in 60 seconds, but I think it would be great to have some private sessions. I think I’d really be able to help you there.”
Something I don’t often do, but that you can do, is just tell your group classes that you teach private lessons. A lot of people don’t even know that private lessons are an option.
Racheal: That’s very true.
Francesca: I had this funny thing happen this spring. I teach an advanced class that’s usually about half teachers and half advanced practitioners. It’s really fun. Because of my presence in the online world now, other yoga teachers know about me from the online world, but they haven’t met me in person. I had a couple of teachers come once, who wanted to check me out and check out my class and there was a whole group of teachers in that.
Racheal: That’s not any pressure at all.
Francesca: I know!
Racheal: Teachers just dropping into your yoga class.
Francesca: But it was so fun. I love to meet people in person who have read my blog or whatever. I always love when people come visit. But, there was a whole group of — it was almost all teachers in there that day.
I was doing, throughout the class, a lot of things… I was saying, “For the teachers in the room, you’ll notice we haven’t really been stretching our hamstrings. Here’s why,” and slipping in little moments of teacher training throughout the class.
Then, at the end of class — this just came to me and I don’t know why — the people who came to visit who were teaching private lessons and wanting to teach more private lessons. I did something to show them what I recommend. We closed class and I was making some of the studio announcements and I said, “You guys know that since I moved here in March, I’ve opened up space for private sessions. But, actually, my calendar’s getting pretty full. I only have two or three slots left for new private clients. If you or someone you know wants to work with a private teacher, I’d love to chat with you.”
I literally just did that to show those teachers how it was done. I didn’t expect anything to come of it because most of the people in the room were teachers and there was a handful of my regulars who had been taking my class every week for two years.
Francesca: Then, one of my regulars — literally, I’ve taught her once a week for two years — was rolling up her mat and she said as an offhand comment, “Oh, God, I wish you could teach my husband. He could really use some yoga,” and she rolled her eyes. I was like, “Yes. I would love to teach your husband.” She was like, “Nah. He hates yoga.” I was like, “Hey! Guess what! That’s my specialty. I work with these guys who think they don’t like yoga and who are real yoga skeptics and I trick them into loving it.”
She was like, “Really?” I was like, “Yeah,” and she was like, “Wow. That would be amazing.” Then, right there on the spot, we had this whole conversation about scheduling and pricing and this little group of teachers was standing around watching. She’s like, “I’ll send you an email, but I think next Thursday at 7:00 should work.” I’ve worked with this guy once a week since then and he’s going to be a great lifelong private client. I’m having a blast with him.
Racheal: It’s as simple as just saying at the end of class, “By the way…”
Francesca: “I teach private lessons.”
Racheal: “I teach private lessons and I have a few spots available.”
Francesca: You never know where your next private client is coming from.
Francesca: I’ve been teaching this woman every week and she’s never once mentioned her husband. It was just I said if offhand and she said it offhand and now I have this new, really hilarious, great private client.
Racheal: It’s just about paying attention to when your clients are really giving you those… they’re raising their hand and saying, “Something you just said is interesting. I’m definitely interested in taking this further.”
Racheal: I love that.
One of the things that I often recommend, yoga is a very referable practice. I tend to find that in yoga and a lot of wellness spaces, the best way to get more clients is through other complementary modalities — other complementary healers, helpers, whatever it might be. That’s one that I think a lot of yoga teachers are hesitant to do; to go out there and make relationships with chiropractors or acupuncturists or massage therapists or whoever else.
Francesca: Yeah. I think that all of these people — therapists are huge; acupuncturists, physical therapists, OBGYNs, orthopedic surgeons — recommend yoga all the time. I think you want them to be recommending you.
Racheal: Often, they don’t know who to recommend. Can I just say that?
Francesca: Yeah. That’s true.
Racheal: They often don’t know who to recommend.
Francesca: That’s so true, Racheal.
I think that what I’ve recommended — if you have a friend, let’s say, who’s a therapist or who’s an orthopedic surgeon, that’s a great place to start so that you can have a personal connection with someone. That makes it a little bit easier.
Even if you don’t, I think you figure out who it is you want to teach, what kind of clients will be a good fit for you. If you love teaching pre-natal and post-natal yoga, then you need to connect with the OBGYNs in your area.
Racheal: Yeah. You need to know every doula within like a 10 mile radius.
Francesca: Exactly. If you have a really great therapeutic background and a really strong anatomy knowledge, then orthopedic surgeons or indoor physical therapists might be a great place to connect.
What’ I’ve recommended… I actually had a plan to do this with orthopedic surgeons. I was going to connect with every orthopedic surgeon the upper east side of Manhattan. But, by the time I had that idea, my practice was so full I never implemented it. I’ve suggested other people to go to the doctor’s practice and offer in some way — so you have to figure out if you do it in person or send an email — the practitioner a free private session with you as a way to say, “I’m expanding my private practice. I think your patients might be a great fit for me, but I’d love to make sure that you’re recommending something that you feel good about. I’d like to offer you a free private session and you can see if it can be a good fit.”
Racheal: I think a lot more people are receptive to that than you’d realize until you get out there and do it.
Francesca: It doesn’t have to be businessey, it doesn’t have to be salesy. You definitely don’t have to go in with beautiful postcards. I would go in and try to make a human, personal connection with the doctor.
Francesca: I’ve even suggested in really big doctor’s practices, the person really with the power is the office manager or the nurse practitioner.
Racheal: Yes. Whoever’s the gatekeeper.
Francesca: Whoever has the power. Yeah. Or whoever’s really spending the most time with the patients or the clients. Figure out how to offer them a free private session.
Francesca: Then give them a stack of your cards. You don’t have to make it more complicated than that.
Racheal: Yeah. I would definitely concur with the whole, “Make a real personal connection.” I see a lot of teachers who want to establish these types of relationships and they start with an email. But let’s face it, these people are getting a lot of emails and if they don’t know you and it sounds like you’re asking for something without having given anything first, that email is usually getting deleted or ignored. It’s not going to be the first priority thing.
But, if you’ve met this person at an event or you’ve attended something they’ve done, or you have a friend who recommended you get in touch, those connections seems to always be the best ones; if you have a friend who recommended this person.
Racheal: It could also be ask your friends, ask your fellow yoga teachers, “I’m looking for some other people to network with for this. Do you know any acupuncturists or do you know any of these people?”
Racheal: You’d be surprised how many of them are seeing those type of practitioners already and who would be like, “Yeah. I’ll give you their information and tell them to expect your call.”
Francesca: Yeah. Exactly. Or, if you’re in therapy or even if you’re not in therapy but your best friend’s in therapy, she might say she can talk to her therapist. “Oh, my friend’s a yoga teacher and she’s wanting to…,” and then she can help make that connection. I think therapists are an awesome, awesome place to start.
Racheal: I totally agree with that.
Francesca: Because they always recommend yoga.
Racheal: Just because I’ve had three kids and I have a huge connection in the birth community, if you want to do pre-natal anything…
Francesca: Or post-natal.
Racheal: Or post-natal, go make friends with all the pregnant women in your life. They see so many people.
Francesca: Right. They see doctors, they see doulas, and they see other pre-natal yoga teachers…
Racheal: They see chiropractors and massage therapists. I mean, they see a lot of people.
That’s one thing I want you to remember. Your amazing yoga students, who are waiting for you, they’re seeing other people! They’re seeing other people. It’s not like you’re asking them to cheat on their chiropractor if they come see you, it’s just very complementary.
Francesca: Super complementary.
Racheal: If you can find a way to get in front of them, I’ve always found the best referrals usually come from people who are already investing in their health, are already investing in their wellbeing and they’re already investing in their self-care or their personal growth or their spirituality. Whatever angle your focus is for your practice.
If they’re already spending money on it, they’re already committed to it, they’re usually a pretty great fit for you because they’re actively pursuing it.
Francesca: I love that.
Racheal: I think that’s a great way to go —
Francesca: Super smart.
Racheal: If you want strong referrals and you want the right people being sent your way.
Kind of along the lines of this — of finding ways to get in front of a referral source — is looking at corporate yoga or working in offices or reaching people who are, let’s face it, working 70 hours a week. They’re stressed out and busy and they don’t have time to go to a yoga class or come to a private lesson that isn’t convenient for them.
Francesca: There’s so many —
Racheal: You do this really well.
Francesca: I’m not doing a ton of this now. I did a lot of this when I was in New York, though. There’s a lot of different ways to offer yoga in the workplace. You can think about the kind of workplace you’re contacting and what would be the best fit for them. Maybe it’s a group yoga class or meditation class at lunchtime once a week. Maybe it’s a series of six 30-minute private lessons in an empty conference room or an empty classroom once a month as a special treat.
I worked at a company like that. They just had three slots. There’s were hour-long, but you could do 30-minute of private sessions every Wednesday. Any employee from the whole company could sign up for one of those slots every week.
Racheal: That’s amazing.
Francesca: I know. Trust me, it was a good company to work for. Those people also worked a lot and they worked really hard. That was kind of cool.
I just now am setting up a meditation. It’s a 60-minute session and it happens in an empty conference room. It’s 25 people and there’s a big table and they’re all in rolly chairs. It’s like a combination of meditation, gentle seated stretching and breath work, seated in a conference room.
Francesca: We’re real excited about that offering. You want to get creative about the different ways that you can offer yoga in the workplace and then contact — whether it’s a place that you work or your friend or your spouse — the person to talk to. It’s the head of HR.
Francesca: That’s who you want to talk to. Don’t you think that’s who you want to talk to about it?
Racheal: Yeah. Unless they’re a smaller company or a smaller organization and the office manager is who runs them. I’m just thinking in terms of smaller cities that aren’t big corporations.
I’ve had a lot of people who have been successful teaching. For instance, I had a great friend who was a former New York City firefighter — he moved down to Richmond, Virginia — and he did amazingly well setting up yoga at fire stations.
Francesca: How cool is that?
Racheal: They have an active budget. They’re always looking for people who can help reduce stress because, let’s face it, that’s a high stress job.
Francesca: Very. Yeah.
Racheal: He just found the people that he needed to talk to — whoever the office manager was or whoever — and because that’s a priority for them, helping reduce the stress in the workplace, they were able to set that up really easily.
Francesca: That’s cool.
Racheal: I think there’s so many opportunities and so many different workspaces to make that happen. It doesn’t just have to be a corporate office building. I see people who are working — nurses need yoga so badly.
Francesca: Oh, god. Or teachers. Like classrooms.
Racheal: Teachers need yoga so badly.
Racheal: Some people do really well just focusing on those types of people when they’re able to make it ridiculously easy for those people to come to a yoga class.
Francesca: Right. You go to them.
Francesca: You go to them. This is your own yoga business that you’re growing and not some other studio or some other person’s yoga business that you’re growing for them.
Francesca: Which is something Racheal talks about a lot.
Francesca: Growing other people’s yoga businesses for them.
Racheal: Yeah. Grow your own yoga business. When you do these things and you find these different ways to get in front of these people, you never know who’s going to be a great private client or who’s going to want to deepen their practice with you — whether that’s one-on-one or doing workshops or taking an advanced training with you or something along those lines. When you’re getting in front of these people, you’re opening up more opportunities to fill those types of things.
Francesca: Yeah. One last thing I want to add here is,
One of the best things you can do to find new private clients is get really clear and comfortable and confident talking about what you do and why.
Francesca: Your best private clients are going to come from relationships where people already know you and like you and trust you — which is something Racheal talks a lot about.
Francesca: The know — what is it?
Racheal: Know, like and trust factor.
Francesca: Know, like and trust factor. If you’re at a cocktail party or you’re at an event at your child’s school or whatever it is and you’re meeting a new acquaintance and people ask you what you do, you want to be able to really clearly and confidently say — if this is what you do and what you want to do.
Racheal: If you’re a pro.
Francesca: Yeah. “I’m a private yoga teacher and I love teaching private yoga lessons because…” and then answer that question and be able to really differentiate the benefits and the outcomes of a private class versus a group class. I love teaching private yoga because I get to meet my students where they are, give them exactly what they need on that day. Because of that, I’m able to facilitate and witness the most amazing change.
Francesca: That’s what I would say if I was at a party and somebody asked me that. That’s what I would say. You never know where your new private client is coming from. If you’re able to talk about yourself and your work in that way, you’re planting seeds every single time you open your mouth.
Racheal: And every time you’re out there meeting people.
Racheal: I love that because it means when you just get out there and have an active, engaged life, you’re going to meet people. Unless you’re a complete introvert and you don’t leave your house, there are people you’re meeting every single day. Which means every time you’re coming in contact with somebody, there is an opportunity to talk with them.
I would definitely take into account all the ideas that we just gave you. Think about how you can get involved in your yoga community, how you can build at presence as a group class teacher and think about how you can build something that’s worth talking about for your existing students and look at the places you can potentially build more referral sources. Whether that’s corporate-type of sources or other healing and helping sources.
At the end of the day, it’s about knowing exactly who you are, why you’re doing it and being super confident to tell every new person you meet, “This is what I do,” and be really proud of that fact.
Francesca: Yeah. I think we’ve talked about this in one of the other episode: creating a life and a career teaching yoga and, subsequently, a real yoga business that is completely based on relationships.
Francesca: Relationships are built slowly.
Racheal: Over time.
Francesca: Over time. Right. You can think of all of these ideas and all of these conversations you’re having out in the world as planting seeds. Something that’s really important is that you don’t assume that every seed is going to immediately grow into a big tree or that it’s going to happen quickly.
Now, I’m teaching about 13 private sessions a week, but I literally have — passing back and forth in my inbox — emails with probably close to five or eight other interested perspective private clients and it just hasn’t materialized yet. I’ve had hundreds of conversations with other people who are potentially interested that just hasn’t come to fruition yet.
It’s important to not get discouraged, not be frustrated. Just enjoy the teaching that you are doing, get super clear about what you’re teaching and why you’re teaching and who you’re excited to teach and just be able to talk about that with ease. Then, just let your garden — keep planting seeds, keep watering your garden and then just let it grow on its own time.
Racheal: Yeah. You can’t force anything, at the end of the day. Because this is a relationship-based business, you can’t force people to sign up when you want them to sign up without becoming that salesperson that none of us wants to be. You know?
Racheal: You can’t force people into your calendar and you can’t force people to do anything that they are not ready and willing and happy to do.
Racheal: If you want, again, these long term relationships with people who love you and will happily pay for your time and expertise, then you have to be willing to plant those seeds and know that some of them will bloom faster. Some of them might take months or years to blossom, but that’s okay. Just stay — this is very yogi — stay unattached to each seed that you plant. Just let it come up when it’s ready.
Francesca: Yeah. Awesome.